17th February 2002, Volume 8, Issue 31

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SPOTLIGHT

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Ponnambalam killers 

caught on tape

By Frederica Jansz

The Sunday Leader  today exposes stunning details of a taped conversation between two policemen which reveals the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam.

Police officer, Sugath alias Shantha Ranasinghe, in this conversation is speaking with OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe of the Criminal Detective Bureau and right-hand-man to SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe, former Director (CDB).

This tape implicates Mahen Ratwatte, son of Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte, where Sugath Ranasinghe, a reserve police officer, is speaking with OIC Wedasinghe who initiated the telephone conversation on behalf of SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe.

Wickremasinghe has in a sworn affidavit to The Sunday Leader  already stated that Mahen Ratwatte is involved in the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam.  Mahen Ratwatte's lawyer, Mahendra Dias, on January 31, 2002 wrote to The Sunday Leader  denying his client's involvement in this case.

Sugath Ranasinghe, first suspect in the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam after trying to broker a deal with SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe and OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe as revealed in this taped conversation, has instead been let down by the cops he trusted who promised to save him by promoting him as state witness in this crime. 

Two days before Mahen Ratwatte got his lawyer to write on his behalf to The Sunday Leader,  Ranasinghe has in a sworn affidavit attempted to remove all blame from Mahen Ratwatte and gone so far as to say that SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe is trying to sling mud on Mahen Ratwatte for political gain.

The fact that Mahen Ratwatte has got his lawyer to write to us professing his innocence in the murder of Kumar Ponnambalam, with an attached copy of Sugath Ranasinghe's affidavit, also proclaiming Mahen Ratwatte's non-involvement in this crime only further implicates Mahen Ratwatte's connection to the key suspect in this murder.

Below is the full transcript of the telephone conversation between OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe and Reserve Police constable Sugath Ranasinghe, of No. 27/28, Abhayarama Lane, Thimbirigasyaya revealing not only Ranasinghe's involvement in this crime but Mahen Ratwatte too whom the killers reported to directly after the shooting.

Voice: Hello, good evening.

OIC Nuwan Wedasinghe (W) : Good evening, can you call Ranasinghe for a moment ?

Voice: Yes, hold on please.

W: Right, thank you. (A little later), Hello.

W: Hello, Ranasinghe, Wedasinghe here.

Sugath Ranasinghe (R) : Sir.

 W: Ranasinghe, after your note (satahana),  yesterday I spoke with Master (mahaththaya). Is it all right for you to talk now?

R: Yes sir, go on.

W: I told Mr. Bandula Wickremasinghe that you are doing this because I'm known to you personally, right!

R: Sir, (in a low voice not very clear) I don't like them, Dhammika is here ...... (inaudible)

W: Is he there now?

R: Yes

W: No.  Keep it a full secret.

R: Sir (inaudible)

W: Right, right.

R: I don't like to be (inaudible) them Sir.

W: Yes, I know about you. Is he ....

R: Yes (inaudible)

W: You must keep them in full confidence. I'm not going to do anything. I'll call you as Senaka. Ask them to call you to the phone when a friend named Senaka is calling, right?

R: (inaudible)

W: No, we won't be a problem to those gentlemen. By the way, Master said something fine.

R: What is it, Sir?

W: If you come, but don't entrust it to anyone else, right? Come to me and talk. Master said that CIS would be granted and that you will not be in this, instead you will be an informant and made a state witness.

R: Oh sir, my job. It will be a shame to lose my job again.

W: No, no, being a state witness will not affect your job. Do you understand what I say?

R: Sir, I may lose the money that is due.

W: At the same time, master said that you will be given Rupees five lakhs. ....

R: It's of no use (inaudible)

W: I'm telling you the truth. Master asked me yesterday to talk to you.

R: Master spoke with me yesterday. The way he talks ...

W: I will listen first and then ask Master to speak with you today right? Then he himself can tell this. He said that you will be made a state witness right away. Then you'll only have to tell the same story again, from the very beginning. How Kumar Ponnambalam got set (friendly) with you. Oh, Master wanted to know yesterday how you met him for the first time, Ranasinghe.

R: Sir, I have already told you; through a woman.

W: Oh that Seetha, isn't it so?

R: Yes sir.

W: For the first time through her, isn't it?  Where was she then?

R: This woman name Seetha?

W: Yes.

R: She was with Anura Aiya. This Seetha goes with MPs and ministers. When introduced he said, 'Of course I will take her.'

W: Kumar Ponnambalam said that he will take her! How long ago was it?

R: Over one and half years ago, may be two years ago.

W: For how long after that did you meet them? Who are the other known persons you have met with her? Have you met anyone else with her?

R: No sir.

W: You were alone when you spoke with her?

R: Yes sir.

W: Right, right, Master said that you have to say that you were called Shantha and was asked to do .... You didn't shoot him, did you?

R: No sir.

W: So you have to say that you did only this. Sam and the others are already caught, so there is no problem about proof. Believe me Ranasinghe, you have only to tell the story how it happened. You can tell Master everything clearly when he calls. What was the time then Ranasinghe? When Master asked, I couldn't remember.

R: About eight thirty (not clear)

W: Did Kumar Ponnambalam call you? When was it?

R: Sir, about five or six the previous day evening.

W: Did you tell him that you were coming?

R: Yes, I told him that I'll be there the following day.

W: He doesn't know your name is Ranasinghe, does he?

R: Sir?

W: Hello, he doesn't know you as Ranasinghe, but only as Shantha?

R: Yes sir.

W: Who else knows this name?

R: Mr. Balapatabendi's son knows, and a few other gentlemen also know.

W: So only they know it and that's not a problem. It won't affect your job. I told Master that you have told me the day before that you haven't earned any money and that your job is the only thing you have, with these happenings even that is at risk!

R: I am doing about ten jobs Sir, security. Anura Aiya Sir, borrowed Rs. 2,000 from me and already owes me Rs. 7,000. When I asked it back he has given only Rs. 500 and I sent it back to him.

W: Is it true?

R: They are of no use sir.

W: Why should he ask it, he is crazy.

R: No sir, Rs. 7,000 is due to me. Even my wife knows that. When I needed the money I asked him and he had sent Rs. 500.

W: Ammata -  (slang) unbelievable.

R: Sir, that day I went to (name inaudible) when you also came to that place.

W: Yes, yes...

R: He said that my behaviour was not good that day and that I had taken some photographs with them? He scolded me and I scolded back saying that it is his wife who drank Arrack and misbehaved. We had an argument sir, I scolded him. If I had not done anything wrong why should I fear him sir!

W: Yes, it's true. By the way Master is somewhat puzzled over how you went to Wellawatte.

R: (Inaudible).. honestly, Sir..

W: Yes, the truth, when Master asked I too was a bit confused. That old man, when you went there who opened the gate for you?

R: I knocked saying I'm Shantha. The man went in and came back to let me in.

W: Then ..?

R: Then he (Kumar Ponnambalam) said, 'Good Morning' and asked me to sit saying that he'll be back in a minute. He did return in less than five minutes.

W: He came back dressed and the two of you went out by car?

R: Yes.

W: When did you take the call?

R: Sir, I think I had called him early in the morning'... (inaudible)

W: No, no, on your way in the car?

R: On my way Sir (not clear) may be after nine or maybe at about 8.50 sir, I cant' remember the exact time we stopped at ...... (place not clear) and I took the call.

W: Whose phone did you use?

R: His phone sir.

W: Kumar Ponnambalam's, you don't remember the number, do you?

R: No, sir, I can check my books.

W: I'll call you tomorrow too in the evening.

R: Sir, please sir (not clear, pleading)  I have two children...

W: No, no, you know me well, don't you Ranasinghe? You can trust me. I'm doing this because you have confided in me.

R: This other thing sir, if you want it done..

W: We'll set that too. I'll tell Master.

R:  (Inaudible) .. vehicle

W: What? A Dolphin! A Toyota Corolla! 301 .. what colour is it.?

R:  White (not clear)

W: 301-3104 - Do all of them travel in it?

R:  Only he (inaudible) ... men with weapons (not clear) altogether about six are there.

W: Who else is there with him?

R:  Inaudible

W: OK, right, right.

R:  (Not clear) may I go out and call you sir?

W: When?

R:  About 6.

W: Is it difficult to talk now? Are they all hanging around? Is it a government building?

R:  They have telephone lines (not clear)

W: Then it's better to call from another place. By the way Ranasinghe, Master wanted to know what happened after the car stopped there. Why did it stop at that particular place?

R:  Sir, (not clear)

W: Ramakrishna Mawatha, isn't it?

R:  Yes sir, he said, 'let's wait here for the others to come' and I said, 'Ok.'  Then seeing a woman he turned into the middle road.

W: Or else you were to drive straight?

R:  Yes Sir, to that place Sir. He had given an order, he phoned and said Sir..

W: To whom?

R:  I don't know that Sir, he spoke in Tamil.

W: He spoke in Tamil and said he is there at Ramakrishna Road?

R: Yes, Sir and then he turned into that road. He said about that woman'How is she? Isn't she beautiful?' I have already asked them to come, Sir.

W: You knew that they were following you?

R:  Yes Sir, I saw that the men were there.  Then I asked him to wait till I talk to them.

W: And he was watching the back?

R:  Yes, Sir, he was watching ahead and they came from behind.

W: Then did you talk to them?

R:  No, Sir I asked him to wait for a while at the turn and went away when I saw our men...

W: Who came?  Saman and who else?

R:  (Silence)

W: Who was the other one .. Sujith?

R:  Yes, Sir.

W: Who shot him?

R:  Both did Sir.

W: How? Browning or (not clear)

R:  (inaudible)

W: I think it's a pistol.

R:  No, Sir, both.  A Browning and .38

W: Is it a Browning?

R:  (not clear) ..Mahathaya's..

W: Yes, that's what I wanted to know and intended to ask you today.  Is it possible to see the place?

R:  (Inaudible)

W: Right, right.  So all of you just walked on or did you go the other way?

R:  No, they ran — they panicked and got frightened.

W: Fools. They were afraid to come.

R:  Yes Sir, afraid. Then it was I who after half way remembered the cell phone.  They first went to meet Ratwatte Mahathaya..  They went and told him ..only then I remembered the cell phone.  Afterwards I came back alone  I said I will go and bring the cell phone.

W: Right away?

R:  About half an hour went Sir, because we went to Bambalapitiya first. These people were afraid to come back. However I went ..I said that I will bring it back alone.

W: You took it in a jiffy?  Was it in the pocket?

R: Yes, the top pocket.

W: They thought that you picked the chain. What did he say?

R: He started an argument with me about taking it and I said that I don''t do such dirty things.

W: Ranasinghe, do you think that the cell (phone) would still be at that place?  Shall we check just in case?  Can you tell the exact place?

R:  The bridge.

W: Is that the bridge to the left once you pass the checkpoint and drive straight?

R:  It's the bridge which is being built when you go past the CR towards my house.  It is to the left from the CR. And to the right from my house about 10 feet.

W: The right side from CR?  Did you drop it from the middle of the bridge?

R:  Yes, Sir. 

W: It should be there, shouldn't it?

R:  Can't say, Sir, might be there.

W: Oh, there is another thing. A call came to Master later asking him not to pursue this matter as it was done by the Army. Who do you think did that?

R:  No Sir, I've no idea.  I saw it in the newspapers about some Ranabahu something..

W: Yes, I too saw that.  Don't know what it is, do you?

R:  I don't know (inaudible).. When someone from the government or opposition, if something happens.. (not clear) why should I lie to you Sir, they will say in newspapers that each one of us gets Rs. 5 lakhs, that's what they told us. (Not clear)

W: Did you do this to settle a personal grudge?

R: No Sir, nothing personal.  I don't even know him well.  He had scolded us ....

W: By us, you mean the Sinhalese?

R:  Yes, he scolded the Sinhalese and appeared for any Tamil in courts, they told me this. The bosses told us to do whatever we think best as they cannot come forward.

W: Well, the biggest problem is that everyone seems to think that the highest rankers in the government are responsible for this and it must change.  That is why Master wants you to tell what really took place. We won't beat you but you may say that you had to reveal all details because we have beaten you up badly and you couldn't bear it anymore. You may even pretend to limp when someone comes. Then it's over. And that talk about money is real, right?  Would you like to speak with Master? Even the money thing is true.

R:  (not clear) OK sir.

W: You stay right there and I'll ask him to call you if he's at home, now. You need not take the call but he will.

R:  They are here now.  The Army men have come in and police too?

W: Do they come to rest and ....(not clear)

R: Yes.

W: Are they Army of police guards?

R: Yes, they are Army guards.

W: Which area does this vehicle mainly haunt?

R:  Kandy (Inaudible)

W: In Kandy? Not the other side?

R:  Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

W: Is that vehicle there now? When it leaves give me a call.

R: Yes.

W: Are all of them there? On one hand it is good.

R: Sir, (inaudible) they must be got rid of..

W: Yes, Yes, I know.  Do you know Kumar Ponnambalam's son?

R: No, Sir.

W: You haven’t met anyone else (of the family) there?

R: No, Sir.

W: Are you sure?

R: Honestly, Sir.

W: How many times have you been to his place?

R:  Four times Sir.

W: By the way what's the colour of the shirt?

R: Light blue.

W: Right, light blue.  I said that it was blue but Master said that it was light blue.

R: I gave that shirt as a present to someone right away, Sir.

W: No! Where is the pair of trousers?

R: With me, Sir.

W: Yesterday, did you think about what you should do?

R: Well Sir, I haven't even told my family that you've spoken to me.

W: Yes, don't tell anyone but keep it a secret. Master has 100% trust in you Ranasinghe. I too have worked with him for many years and have told him at the beginning that I'll...

R: (Not clear)

W: OK, I'll look into that.  You know me well.

R: Sir, Nawala Nihal and Leslie Fonseka say that they're related to Mr. Bandula Wickremasinghe.

W: All utter lies. Master scolded in filth saying how can these paraiahs be his relations..

R: We know Sir, when we were young, they have stolen from the food stores and sold outside to become rich.

W: They're crazy. They say these things, to win respect of big shots.

R: I have told you the truth Sir, I have children, please don't put me in trouble.

W: No, Ranasinghe, don't you trust me?  You know that I don't say one thing and do another. You know me well.  I will save you, but I won't say that I'll save all the others.

R: I trust you Sir, they say that you are good Sir.

W: I've spoken to Master on the word that I've given you. We do it only if it is possible. Then Master said that he can promise Rs. 5 lakhs to you when you are made a witness for the State.

R: Is it true Sir? I don't want 5 lakhs but 2 is enough.

W: Yes, of course, there are no two words. Do you know why? There have been ugly rumours internationally about the highest authority's connection to this.

R: Madam..(not clear)

W: Yes.

R: Then I will admit it Sir. If the LTTE is like that, we all are not people without backbones. I will say everything.

W: You only have to tell what happened. We have to save the government or else a bad name will be given. We have made inquiries day and night.

R: I will talk Sir, but will I have to face threats from the LTTE after my release Sir?

W: If so, we'll send you abroad.

R: Will I be given a weapon Sir?

W: Either that or else you will be sent abroad by the government. I'll speak to Master about it. Then it's over.

R: Please, Sir, don't kill us as they did during the UNP regime.

W: Are you crazy? I wouldn't even talk to you like this in that case..

R: I was frank with you Sir, trusting you.

W: I know. Continue to trust me.

R: I have a son and a daughter, Sir.

W: I know. Don't tell anyone and don't talk to anyone. If you can stay where you are for ten minutes I'll ask Master to ring you and then you'll be able to hear everything from him.

R: If you say so I can call him Sir. It will be difficult to answer him when there are others around.

W: I'll tell Master that it's difficult for you to answer him and not to ask any questions.

R: Tell him that I'll call from outside.. OK, Sir.

W: From where does Kumar Ponnambalam get his women?

R: They are Tamils mainly from Jaffna.

W: How does he do that?

R: I've no idea Sir.  I wanted to find out but when I mentioned this to a couple of our bosses they asked me to mind my own business as we cannot change the world.

W: He couldn't do anything else could he?

R: No sir.

W: He made others do it.

R: And watched it.

W: Have you seen him watching?

R: Sir, he had told me that he couldn't do it and had to watch it.

W: Through that he gets satisfaction.

R: Yes sir, I'm sure that cell (phone) must be there.

W: What is this CR bridge really?

R: Sir, when you're coming past the SLRC towards ..

W: Then you find the check-point and turn right.

R: To the left.

W: First to the right and then to the left.

R: Yes Sir, maybe about 10 feet to the right.

W: Did you walk down to throw it?

R: No sir, I threw it from the bridge.

W: Did you stand on the middle of the bridge to drop it ?

R: I threw it slyly while travelling in a three-wheeler with four others and they did not even know.

W: The water doesn't flow fast there, does it? Is it quite deep?

R: Maybe sir, they have dug it (the river bed)

W: Then it may not be there, where did it flow down to?

R: It won't go Sir because of the mud.

W: How can I identify it? What colour is it and what make?

R: Nickel colour sir, Nokia.

W: How many inches is it long?

R: There's a piece to pull out at the bottom and it comes out.

W: What do you mean by coming out?

R: There's a piece like a mouth-piece which can be pulled out.

W: When one wants to talk, one has to pull that piece down? What's the colour of the buttons?

R: You have to pull that piece down in order to press the buttons.

W: So the buttons are not visible when the piece covers them?

R: Yes sir, lead or Nickle piece covers them, it's like a cover.

W: What's the colour of the outer covering?

R: Black/ash sir.

W: Now Ranasinghe, you have to make up your mind. Don't think of anything else. Shall I ask Master to call you now? Can you be there?

R: Yes sir, there are people here.

W: I'll ask him to just talk to you. I'll tell him that you cannot say much as there are other people around. I may give you a call tomorrow. Don't be afraid of anything but have complete faith in me. If I'm doing it I'll tell you directly, Ranasinghe, don't get caught. If you do I'll do this to you, right? I have spoken with you at least a day and what is more you're a policeman. I'm doing it for a policeman. It's natural for people to have different feelings, OK!  We can't help it. By the way who was that other RPC man?

R: He is one Azad.

W: Where is he now (not clear) what's his connection? Does he supply women to him?

R: No Sir, he is given women, I know of one such instance from Killinochchi.

W: Who, Mr. Ponnambalam?

R: Yes sir.

W: He gives and watches him?

R: Yes sir.

W: OK, shall we ask him later about this? Not now.

R: Yes sir, not now but later.

W: Then will you wait right there while I ask Master to call you OK?

R: Yes Sir, and ask him to say that specially.

W: Yes I will, stay there. OK hello, Ranasinghe, I won't be in the police station tomorrow as I have to go out. If you want to speak to me ask (name) to give the message to Senaka?

R: OK sir, thank you.

Female voice: Hello.

W: Good morning madam, is sir there?

Voice: Yes, hold on please.

Master: Hello.

W: Good evening sir, OIC calling from Kataragama. I called that man just now, sir, and got it done the way you wanted. He is afraid of you, sir. Now he is there, sir, can you ring him up now?

Master: What is the number?

W: Dial this number sir, 08 223993. Sir, cannot say much as the place is crowded. He has given some valuable information sir, Dhammika is there too.

Master: In that house?

W: He will support us to catch Dhammika and if caught asked him to be done that work. He gave information about the vehicle too. I did not go to the police station, there's only one line sir, but speak from a private residence. Can you call him now sir?

Master: on 223993 .?

W: Yes sir, 223993, 08 Kandy Sir.

 

 

 

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